Woman who lost family to house fire warns of dangers of Christmas tree fires
A house fire can incapacitate an entire family in just seconds. That risk increases around the holidays, especially in homes with Christmas trees.
A demonstration held at the Monmouth County Fire Academy on Thursday shows how dangerous a Christmas tree fire can be, especially in homes without fire sprinklers.
Sher Grogg attended the demonstration. She lost her brother, sister-in-law and their four grandchildren to a fire in January of 2015. The Christmas tree caught fire inside their Annapolis, Maryland, home and all were killed.
“They didn’t have a chance to escape. There was no opportunity to escape,” Grogg says.
Through an organization called Common Voices, Grogg wants to see every new home come equipped with sprinklers. She says that her family could have been had an opportunity to escape if their home had them.
“I never thought this would happen to my brother. They had state-of-the-art everything in their home. The only thing they were missing was the fire sprinkler,” she says. “It wasn’t mandated when they built their home. It was mandated the year after.”
Whether a home has a sprinkler or now, fire officials say that the best thing one can do to protect themselves and save lives is to have an escape plan.
“When you know there's a potential for a fire, how do you get out of the home? Where do you go, where do you meet up afterward? Get on the floor, stay low. These are things you can train yourself to understand and protect your entire family in doing so,” says John Wisniewski, of the New Jersey Fire Safety Commission.
“My brother was found trying to fight the fire. My sister-in-law was found going to get the kids, trying to get them out – escape. But that never happened,” Grogg says.
Experts say that families with live Christmas trees should fill the tree stand every day with water, unplug the lights before bed and remove the tree immediately after the holiday to reduce the risk of fire.
Grogg says that her brother was planning on throwing out the family’s tree the day after the fire.